Earth Day is Saturday, and the National Conference Center shares five smart ways that event and meeting planners can green up their act. The Leesburg, Va.-based training and conference facility knows how to do it—it is Green Seal-certified.
How to get your green on:
1) Keep grass really green: When doing a site visit, take a look around. Is there a lot of outdoor space for attendees to take a walk, or a hike, or to sit quietly? Having a facility with outdoor space that is relaxing--even a space to meditate--is a natural way to encourage attendees to unwind. But make sure that greenery is maintained with a water-wise approach. The National property is irrigated only when necessary and mulched plant beds are used to retain water. An integrated pest management program is in place to research the use of organic insecticides and fertilizers.
2) Feed your focus: Studies have shown that eating high-protein foods and less sugar sustains energy, brainpower and focus. Pick a venue that understands the value of healthy food and breaks. The National offers the “Breakfast of Champions” menu featuring healthy options. Also ask if your venue sources foodstuffs that are local and in season.
3) Save your energy: The most obvious way to see if a venue is committed to sustainability is to look for energy-saving options available to you. The National uses motion sensors in guest rooms to determine when rooms are unoccupied in order to provide energy-saving heating and cooling. Also ask if the property uses an efficient energy-management program to operate its central utility plant. This approach saves energy compared with operating the plant manually. Other energy-savers to check for are energy-efficient light bulbs and Energy Star-rated machinery, computers and appliances.
4) Take out the trash: Your venue should work to reduce the amount of trash it generates, dubbed “source reduction” in the green world. Paperless check-in, digital brochures and making handouts available for download from a website are just a few ways a conference planning department can help keep paper use down. Ask your venue how it provides water. Plastic bottles are out; ceramic coolers with reusable cups are in. Use environmentally-friendly paper products (napkins, paper towels, etc.) that are biodegradable and recyclable. The National maintains a waste management contract for single-stream recycling for glass, plastic, aluminum, metal, wood, cardboard and paper.
5) Make the most of your mission: Working with the local community with CSR project can serve as a team-building exercise for your group and build morale. The National can help organize a river clean-up program near the Potomac River or help develop a program with a local group to clean a park.